Today is the World Day of Social Justice as recognized by the United Nations. (It’s okay, I just found out this morning too).
The United Nations states, “Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”
I agree with everything that they’ve written above and I long to see those barrier removed, but the United Nations has omitted an important factor–Jesus Christ. True peace is only conquerable when people are conforming to the character of Christ and seeking after him. (Although, even in the pursuit of Christ people are still sin-stained beings and won’t experience the fulfillment of peace until Christ returns to form the New Heaven and New Earth).
Social justice is sort of a trendy topic. Much of American society, and in particular Millennials, are sick of a world saturated with injustice–both in America and abroad. But Jesus is not so trendy. As we bifurcate Christ and the work of social justice, the passion that once fueled our drive towards justice will fade as the trendiness passes.
But social justice is more than just trendy–it’s biblical! When we have an unwavering commitment to Christ, then we will have an unwavering commitment to social justice no matter what the sociopolitical environment!
Christians must embrace the oft-ignored scriptural basis for social justice and lead the charge towards equality. We must invoke the compassion of God for the poor, the marginalized, the widowed, the orphaned, the immigrant, the forgotten, and the voiceless.
Jesus offers his mission statement in Luke 4:18-19:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me….I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!
James, the brother of Christ, said that “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
Care for the poor was built into the Israelites legal code in passages like Exodus 22 that demand care for the poor, widowed, orphaned and sojourners. And the prophets routinely called out Israel for perverting justice! Amos was an 8th Century (BC) prophet who condemned the Northern Kingdom of Israel for oppressing the poor! (I’d recommend reading the entire book–it’s seriously under-read in churches–but specific indictments include Amos 2:7, 4:1, 5:10-15, and 6:4-7).
This is just a sampling of passages regarding God’s heart for justice, but I assure you the Bible is littered with similar commands or indictments.
So let our passion for Christ entail a commitment to justice not just the trend.